With cycling season rapidly approaching (I think!), Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke wants the BPD to start ticketing cyclists who run straight through stop signs to the tune of $105 a pop! My first thought was, he might want to consider issuing citations to motorists on McKee and Wilson who do the same damn thing.
But I digress!
Now, before you hit the “send” button at this early stage, my 13-year readers know just how hard I’ve been on my road biking brethren and sisteren. Regularly calling them out in print and in public for their blatantly bad behavior has rendered me the equivalent of a man without a country. To wit, I have just two road-biking friends left.
I’ve also been particularly hard on a Batavia bicycle store co-owner who gets furious at errant motorists, but frequently lets his cyclists slide.
In fact, I’ve become so dismayed by the entire cycling situation that, resorting primarily to running, I haven’t ridden very much in the last three years. Though with my sports Doc’s anti-impact encouragement, I do have a hankering to get back to it this year.
While I’d love to see some of the more arrogant road bikers slapped with any number of three-figure fines, this is a situation in which the proposed cure will be far worse than the purported disease. Please allow me to explain:
1. Eighty percent of the stop signs around downtown Batavia are illegal
“A stop sign can be illegal?” Yes it can! As a result of municipalities like Westchester placing a red octagon on almost every residential corner, the State of Illinois has implemented stringent rules for exactly where those traffic measures might be installed.
And most of Batavia’s and Geneva’s don’t make the cut.
I’m betting some of ‘em are grandfathered in, but it would be fascinating to see how many Batavia stop signs would survive a legal challenge. Considering the cost of a road bike, the sport tends to attract the kind of affluent crowd that certainly could pull that kind of lawsuit off.
2. Are you solving a problem, or creating a new one?
Most of the group rides I’ve participated in make the same stop sign effort that most motorists do. If there’s no opposition, we slowly roll through them, but we will stop if traffic requires it.
The irony is, when we do stop, the vast majority of drivers wave the entire group through. It’s almost as if they believe in my contention that whoever’s getting the most exercise should have the right of way. And ticketing them for enjoying that kind of largesse would be patently unfair.
But let me tell you, what nobody really wants is a group of 30 cyclists individually stopping at every single Batavia stop sign. It would turn into the kind of nightmare that would tie up traffic in three separate directions for at least five blocks as the group tries to reassemble.
Trust me, I understand the mayor was talking about the riders who blow through stop signs at full speed, but most Collar County police departments aren’t regaled for their prudent application of discretion.
We’ll talk about the obvious solution in a bit.
3. Why don’t those consarned riders start off further west?
That was Daily Herald reporter Sue Sarkauskas’ suggestion, as she ran the original story. And that’s exactly what I do. It’s a small jaunt from the west side of Geneva to an isolated Campton Hills park and I’m home free from there!
That way, I’ll run into a mere six stop signs and six Sunday morning cars on a 30-mile ride.
But the problem with that theory is, the bike shops that sponsor these regular group rides do so, in great part, to get customers in the door. So, moving the staging point west would defeat the primary purpose. And if the BPD starts ticketing cyclists for minor violations, it’s really going to hurt those businesses.
Let me be clear that in no way absolves those shops for any failure to keep their riders in line.
4. While we’re talking…
Beyond stop signs, another major motorist cycling concern is groups that ride more than one abreast. Please rest assured, I’m not talking about the oblivious nitwits who take up an entire lane sending every motorist in either direction into complete conniptions. Those folks should be ticketed for outright stupidity.
I’m talking about those bike shop organized rides that tend to be better behaved.
The first, and lesser reason, for this formation is practice. Real bike races present the kind of challenge that means you’re three inches from the wheel in front and a mere two inches from the handlebars on either side. And if you aren’t accustomed to that kind of claustrophobic riding, your fellow racers are risking serious injury.
The greater reason is a string of 40 single-file riders heading back into town on Main Street would bring Batavia cross-traffic to a screeching halt, especially if they stop at every stop sign. It’s much smarter to double up in a tight formation that allows motorists to pass the group with ease and doesn’t tie up traffic.
And now for the promised solution!
It’s simple! Rather than threaten to ticket cyclists to induce good conduct, the Mayor, the Batavia City Council, the bike shops and cyclists should get together to create a minimal westward stop sign route that will get riders into and out of downtown Batavia as quickly as possible. That kind of cooperation would solve most of the problem and it would certainly be a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Let’s also not forget that, while riders need to be responsible, the law also dictates that motorists must give cyclists three full feet of leeway when they pass them. So, if they’re gonna ticket us, then they need to ticket those folks, too!